October 2018 Tier List (Pre-Balance Patch)- Neon - October 11, 2018
This tier list is outdated. New tier list!
As a content creator, you understand that sometimes you get scooped. Sometimes someone writes a similar article as you right before you. This is part of the job, and you find ways to cope, like adding a bit of a twist, or pushing off the release. There are a few times I have been savagely “reverse-scooped” by DWD, such as the time that a massive Blitz nerf came two days after my long-form deck tech on TJP Blitz. Today was by far the most savage moment of getting scooped I have ever experienced, as I was mere minutes away from publishing the October 2018 Tier list when DWD announced major balance changes, totally invalidating the tier list. I have decided to publish the list anyway, as it both functions as a historical record of what the meta looked like before this set of balance changes, and provides a useful “starting line” for where things might go from here. So, with that in mind, here is the October 2018 tier list.
We have had just over a week since the release of the “Into Shadows” campaign, it has been just over a month since the last tier list, and the next competitive DWD test event coming in just over a week it felt like the perfect time to put together another tier list! Let’s get right into things!
Where Am I Getting My Numbers?
High level players! I recruit a rotating band of high-performing tournament and ladder competitors to fill in a survey to give their thoughts on different decks. I am deliberately trying to pull information from a range of high-level players to get a well-rounded perspective. If I didn’t ask you, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about your opinion, but I would just like to spread out the work from month-to-month. The players who filled out the survey this month were Erik9099, NotoriousGHP, InGenuity, Kardinole, camat0 and IlyaK. This is a different collection of players than last month, so some differences in evaluation will partly be a result of idiosyncratic effects. I am also offering a chance to win a $5 Steam card to those who fill out the survey, and this month the winner is InGenuity!
I should mention that I asked players to ignore differences between Ranked and Tournaments. While I understand that there are some decks that have an edge in one over the other, this is not generally too important. I asked players to average their rating of the two formats if there was a difference in their mind.
I also asked the players to link me suggested decklists for each archetype. I will admit that I did not test these myself, but they seem reasonable. These are at least a good starting point to understand typical builds of these decks.
Power and Popularity
I am dividing the tier list into two separate metrics: “Power” being a metric for how good a deck is, and “Popularity” being a metric for how often a deck is played. This will help identify decks that are overrated or underrated.
The “power level tier list” is a summary of what top-level players think you should be playing. I specifically asked them to ignore complexity and fun, but focus entirely on maximizing the chance of winning. Here are the descriptions I gave to the players filling out the survey:
Tier 1: Heavyweight. Decks you would suggest to a skilled player who only cared about winning.
Tier 2: Contender. Some weaknesses, but has a lot to offer. Maybe a change in the meta will allow it to move up
Tier 3: Lightweight. This deck has some serious problems, but some people keep playing it for some reason.
Tier 4: Meme. If it is popular, it isn't because the deck is actually good.
(Tier 5) No comment.
Commentary: While there have been some comments about how the metagame is stale, and that things never change, the shifts within the power rankings we have seen over the last month do not bear that out. Last month’s tier list was released shortly after Cranky Panda publicized his TJP Control deck, which then went on to brutalize the ladder. TJP Control was around the back half of tier 2 a month ago, but has shot up to one of the most powerful decks in the game. Combrei Aggro has also had an interesting trajectory. Last month, Combrei Alessi was still recovering from the Safe Return nerf, but since then the deck has pivoted to a more focused beatdown deck, which has seen tremendous success in both tournaments and on the ladder. Xenan Mask is also a huge winner. Last month it seemed people were barely aware of the deck, but now it is able to sneak into tier 1! This is partly a response to the popularity of TJP Control, a deck that has a miserable Talir-Mask match up, as well as a couple small upgrades like Last Chance.
It should also be noted that TJP Fliers got slammed over the course of the last month, falling from tier 1 to the bottom of tier 2. This is likely a result of bad matchups against Combrei Aggro and TJP Control. Kennadins also fell a good deal, partly as a result of being slightly over-valued in the last tier list, and partly due to a very poor win rate against Combrei Aggro. It is worth noting that while some players have said the new Azindel will make a big impact on the meta, it has not made a huge impact quite yet. Talir-Mask, Xenan Midrange, and Big Xenan all had strong showings, coming in at tiers 1 and 1.5 respectively, but for the lists that were submitted few of them included Azindel, Revealed. This could simply be an oversight, but it should be said that he still has a lot to prove. I wouldn’t be totally shocked to see big Xenan close to the top of the power rankings with another month of innovation. The decks posted above for “Xenan Midrange” and “Big Xenan” could honestly be flipped in some capacities, as Xenan has a pretty consistent issue where every “size” of deck seems to blend into one another. The community might need some better names for decks like these to help differentiate them.
What is almost as important as what you should be playing is what other people are playing. If you want to metagame against the field, it is good to know what decks are the most common.
Tier 1: Very popular. Expect to see this deck in almost every ladder session, and every tournament.
Tier 2: Somewhat popular. Be prepared for the deck, but don't warp your deck around it.
Tier 3: Fringe. Some players are using the deck, but it is certainly not common. Be familiar with it.
Tier 4: Off-meta. Maybe you have seen it once or twice, but it is not worth considering.
(Tier 5) No comment.
Commentary: I know this is a shock to you all, but it turns out that Rakano Valkyries, TJP Control and Combrei Aggro are really popular. Kidding aside, these have certainly been the most common decks on ladder in my experience. After these decks things become a lot mushier, with a lot of decks that are all clustered fairly close together in terms of popularity. Most of the changes in popularity can be explained by changes in power level, though one deck does buck that trend slightly – Scream. According to this particular group, they did not feel the deck improved much in power level compared to last month, but had become slightly more popular. This is obviously a small sample-size, so I don’t want to read too much into minor differences, but the release of Shakedown and Vara (and maybe even Last Chance, if you are really into that) could have given scream-enthusiasts an excuse to play the deck, even if the power level is only mediocre. Alternatively, Scream could have been underplayed last month, but now is getting the proper level of play.
This measures decks that were rated as significantly more powerful than they were popular, meaning that they may be underplayed at the moment, or might highlight some hole in the metagame.
Same as last month, Hooru Midrange/Fliers is rated as much more powerful than it is popular, and I expect it is for a similar reason as last month; Rakano Valkyries do most of the same things Hooru does, but they do them a bit better. Alternatively, it might be the case that Hooru Fliers is actually quite strong, but is not seeing play because people think it is a strictly worse Valkyries deck. Can’t quite tell without more fleshed out data.
Blitz is also considered underrated for the second month in a row, which is understandable, given the learning curve of the deck. If I were trying to break open the meta with some new tech this is probably where I would spend my energy.
While some decks are more powerful than they are popular, the reverse can also be true. Which decks are seeing more play than they should?
Oddly, the contributors didn’t seem to think many decks were overrated. The deck that had the highest score on this front was actually Valkyries, which is funny given that it was tier 1 in both popularity and power. I would interpret this as follows: Valkyries is really really popular, but is merely really good. This also shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who has played the deck, as it is pretty easy to pilot, meaning less skilled players might gravitate towards it.
On the form I give contributors a chance to suggest decks that I might have missed. If half (or more) of the contributors feel I missed something, I would go back and get responses to include it in the article. If two people pointed out the same deck then I figured it is worth mentioning, but not worth including as part of the tier list. This month two decks met that threshold: TJS Mask and TPS Cleaver. These would be good decks to study up on if you wanted to influence the metagame.
For all the talk of ranked being stale, we have seen a good deal of churn in the metagame. TJP Control and Combrei Aggro may not be a new decks at their core, but sometimes small improvements can have a big downstream effect. “Into Shadow” has not been the most impactful campaign, but it did a little work to stir things up a touch. As I have been saying for a while, I think the feeling of staleness is more likely a result of seeing decks that look similar to decks that were popular in the past rather than the metagame actually being bad in some way.
Thanks for checking this out! I’m sure a lot of you have opinions on this, and I want to hear them! Share your thoughts on Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, or on Youtube! I also want to take this opportunity to announce that A+Space is now working with Inked Gaming! They are a great place to meet all your nerdy needs, like playmats, mouse pads, and hoodies! If you use the code ASPACE12 at checkout you get a 12% discount, and you let them know we sent you! You can also help A+Space by checking out our Patreon, which gives you access to the A+Space Discord, as well as some other fun perks.
Thanks again to those who helped give me the information for the tier list, and thanks to all of you for checking this out!